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Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy Paperback – March 25, 2003


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Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy + A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World + A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060514469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060514464
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A sequel of sorts to Basbanes's earlier A Gentle Madness (on the manic nature of bookselling and book-collecting), this copious volume takes its title from the formidable lions guarding the entrance to the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. Opening with the great libraries of the past, from Alexandria to Pergamum and Glastonbury, Basbanes, former literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram, segues into such venerable active libraries as those at the Vatican, Wolfenbottel and the universities of Durham, Leiden and Oxford. He visits with shrewd, sometimes eccentric book dealers who happily recount tales of bygone bibliophiles, and illustrates a variety of collections, from illuminated medieval manuscripts to volumes more valuable for who owned them than for binding or content. "I absolutely insist on keeping the same crummy look," a bookshop owner tells him proudly. "Every time I make the place too neat, business goes down." But a pathos pervades the book, for despite the huge increase in readers and book buyers, one dealer observes "a radical dismantling of high culture well under way" since the 1930s. The collector in 1939 who bought a rare book about Native American languages "by selling bottles of his own blood" has no latter-day parallel. Basbanes closes with tales of crusty benefactors like Andrew Carnegie, and interviews with librarians faced with the dilemma of too many old books that no one now wants to read. Basbanes's fund of stories will delight readers who value books for more than just a good story, have a yen for second-hand books plucked from dusty shops or look to book catalogs for suspense and excitement. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn T. Chu. (Oct.)Forecast: This will undoubtedly garner much attention in the book pages, as did its predecessor, aided by a six-city author tour, a 15-city NPR campaign and print features.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In A Gentle Madness, bibliophile and longtime newspaper literary editor Basbanes explored the obsession of book collecting. Here he widens his focus to view all of book culture. He gives us his unique outlook on the great libraries and great librarians past and present, and he shares his seemingly infinite stock of stories about famous and unknown makers of books, influential booksellers, antiquarians, celebrated writers, and extraordinary readers, bibliographers, conservators, archivists, and collectors. With seemingly little underlying structure, Basbanes's remarkable stories follow one after the other until we are carried away with him on his bookish travels. Along the way, we visit the famed ancient library in Alexandria, as well as the new one now under construction there. We get intimate views of the great public libraries in New York and Boston and of various other libraries. We sit in on interviews with authors (e.g., Umberto Eco, Robert Coover), monks, and countless others. Titled after the unofficial names for the two lion statues that stand outside the New York Public Library, this book will be followed by a sequel, Life Beyond Life: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World, in January 2003. Highly recommended. Paul D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Pretty exciting, I'd say!
John Knight
As he did with the first volume, "A Gentle Madness", Nicholas Basbanes has written a book for a very wide audience.
taking a rest
The books arts community located in western Massachusetts is described.
Mary E. Sibley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on April 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As he did with the first volume, "A Gentle Madness", Nicholas Basbanes has written a book for a very wide audience. "Patience And Fortitude", goes well beyond any confines that would limit the work to readers interested only in the smallest of details that would be of importance to only the most addicted of bibliophiles. This is a history book, a political science book, a work that discusses education, and a book that addresses the importance of libraries, whether it is the matter in which they are constructed or how political groups attempt to influence History. It is also about the future of books and in some cases the wholesale destruction of publicly owned library inventory and their contents.
There is also good news, for the moment The United States still has more libraries than we do McDonalds. Such may not always be the case if some of those responsible for the care of our written history are not carefully watched. The most notorious example of destruction came about in San Francisco during the transition from the old library to the new. There is no question that a library may choose to have a limited number of copies of a given book, but having the department of sanitation collect and then dump tens of thousands of volumes in to the city landfill should be criminal. There is never a shortage of interest in books. When the disposal of books became known, books that had been marked for destruction were offered to the public gratis. One woman came home with over 1200 books.
The construction of The National Libraries of England, France, and an attempt to create a new Alexandria library are also covered in great detail. England's new facility may not be a visual treat but as a repository for books, there care and distribution it works.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Joseph on February 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are passionate about books, I mean really passionate, then Basbanes may have written this tome for you. He provides a 600-page history of bibliomania, the obsession with books through the centuries. But for the general reader, the non-scholar, this book is probably twice as thick as it needs to be.
The chapter, "Madness Redux," features Jay Fliegelman, a Stanford University English professor and book collector who seriously (and physically) assesses the relationships between the books he owns. "I wake up sometimes and I will go to my library and move a book from one shelf to another, because in the middle of the night I thought about certain connections between the two. I am wondering, does this author belong with this author?" The perfect image for those who live, and literally, dream books.
It is interesting to read of thirteenth century librarians chaining books to wooden cabinets in an attempt to deter thieves and vandals. Chains apparently became a basic component in the layout of medieval libraries (as replicated, too, in the recent Harry Potter movie). The Cathedral Library at Hereford, England, is currently home to the largest collection of chained books anywhere in the world.
There are also pages on some famous bookstores such as the cavernous Serendipity Books, Inc, in Berkeley, California (owner Peter B. Howard's only business goal is to "continue with dignity"), and both the Argosy and Strand Book Stores in New York City. The Strand also sells and rents books by the linear foot, and proprietor Nancy Bass once filled an order for customers in Miami Beach who wanted only books in the colors hot pink, yellow, and magenta.
Basbanes also tracks the antiquarian bookselling trade in Europe.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John Knight on February 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Nicholas Basbanes has written the second of a projected trilogy about the love of his life: books. Following the wonderful "A Gentle Madness", "Patience and Fortitude" (the names of the two stone lions flanking the entrance to New York Public Library) deals largely with the storage and retrieval of books from ancient times till today. It begins with the ancient world's great library in Alexandria where the entirety of Western knowledge was stored and ends with a plan to rebuild a modern library in Egypt's second largest city: Alexandria!
The first third of the book deals with his tour of the sites of ancient and medieval libraries. My favorite is the abbey at Monte Casino; but surely any bibliophile and traveler will soon be planning his/her next European trip around Basbanes' theme. The second third of the book deals with avid private collectors and booksellers. This is, really, a reprise of his first book. The folks detailed here suffer from his aforementioned gentle madness and, uniformally, see themselves as temporary custodians of the books they love and the cultures those books represent.
In the final portion of the book Basbanes discusses libraries of today and the many challenges they face. In San Francisco there was a wrongheaded pursuit of network access, ultrmodern communication and architectural showing-off when a new building was built for the city's library. This had the horrific result of no room for the books. Thousands of volumes ended up in landfills before a few civic protestors drew attention to the disaster. At Harvard University, on the other hand, rather than destroy books they have built new, climactically controlled storage barns and maintain and grow their marvelous collection.
Dry stuff? Compared to Baldacci or King--sure. But, Basbanes is talking about the preservation of a culture and its artifacts. Pretty exciting, I'd say!
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